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Arcadia Paperback – October 2, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This beautifully crafted novel follows Bit Stone, the first child to be born in the late 1960s on an upstate New York commune called Arcadia, from childhood through the year 2018. An introspective youngster who can often go months without speaking, Bit “watches life from a distance.” He can see how hard his parents work to make Arcadia successful, but he can also see that the self-indulgent commune leader frequently fails to live up to his own ideals. As the backbreaking work, continual poverty, and near-constant hunger work to undermine the once-flourishing sense of community, Bit’s family leaves the commune to make their way in the outside world. Bit becomes a photographer and teacher but is always anchored to the place of his childhood, even marrying the emotionally damaged daughter of Arcadia’s guru, but happiness proves elusive, both for him and for the greater world, as a flu pandemic sweeps the globe. Groff’s second novel, after the well-received The Monsters of Templeton (2008), gives full rein to her formidable descriptive powers, as she summons both the beauty of striving for perfection and the inevitable devastation of failing so miserably to achieve it. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Richly peopled and ambitious and oh, so lovely, Lauren Groff's Arcadia is one of the most moving and satisfying novels I've read in a long time. It's not possible to write any better without showing off." -- Richard Russo "Part Stone Diaries, part Lord of the Flies, part something out of a Shakespearean tragedy, Lauren Groff's Arcadia is so uniquely absorbing that you finish it as if waking from a dream. Groff is one of our most talented writers, and Arcadia one of the most revelatory, magical and ambitious novels I've read in years." -- Kate Walbert, author of the New York Times Book Review's 10 best books of the year, the New York Times bestselling novel A Short History of Women "'Arcadia swings gently between moments of pure happiness and exquisitely described melancholy ... beautiful prose ... Arcadia the commune may have been an experiment in a new way of living but Arcadia the book explores several lifestyles, without the need for the reader to blister their hands weeding a soy patch. Arcadia is smart, beautiful, rooted in an earthy and glorious location. Read it and consider your place in the world and the people you love, but mostly read it for its beauty. Groff's beautifully written Arcadia paints a lyrical picture ... You fall in love with Arcadia's protagonist, Bit, and find yourself transported to a different time, place and lifestyle.'" Stylist 5 stars "Lauren Groff's Arcadia is so immersed in the life of a hippie commune that patchouli ought to waft off its pages.Ms. Groff has taken a quaint, easily caricatured community and given it true universality, not just the knee-jerk kind that Arcadian platitudes espoused. Even more unexpectedly, she has expanded this period piece so that it stretches from 1965 to 2018, coaxing forth a remarkable amount of suspense from the way her characters change over time. And a book that might have been small, dated and insular winds up feeling timeless and vast. The raw beauty of Ms. Groff's prose is one of the best things about Arcadia. But it is by no means this book's only kind of splendour.Arcadia is stunningly sensual and visceral in describing behaviour straight out of a time capsule.A shimmering evocation of the commune's heyday. Even allowing for Ms. Groff's extraordinarily rich imagination, she writes about this life as if she has known it." New York Times "With Arcadia, Groff has woven her own tale, in eloquent prose that's rich in sense of place and depth of feeling" -- Holly Williams Independent on Sunday --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1St Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140134190X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401341909
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (276 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lauren Groff is the author of the novel The Monsters of Templeton, shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, Delicate Edible Birds, a collection of stories, and Arcadia, a New York Times Notable Book, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and finalist for the L.A. Times Book Award.

Her third novel, Fates and Furies, was released in September 2015.

Her work has appeared in journals including the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Tin House, One Story, McSweeney's, and Ploughshares, and in the anthologies 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and three editions of the Best American Short Stories.

She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two sons. Her website is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Jayne on March 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I haven't read a novel this involving and moving in a very long time. It's so good that I don't even want to say much about it; it stands on its own, as its own statement. I will say that for me the most impressive thing about the book is its vision. Spanning 40 years or so, it holds a taut center line, so that no matter where the characters go or what they do, the line keeps them in a defined orbit around the core of the book.

Lauren Groff is more than 20 years younger than I am. As I write this, I'm about the same age as the main character in the last third or so of the book. It's almost miraculous to me that someone who hasn't yet reached this age can so accurately peg the combination of nostalgia, bitterness, and regret of looking back at childhood, living in the present, and being uncertain about the future. There's more than a whiff of Peter Pan and Never Never Land in the story, and I mean that in a good way. On top of that achievement, Groff has also constructed a perfectly convincing bridge from a time most of her readers clearly remember to a time we can only imagine.

This is a quiet novel, without drama and histrionics. It's also highly literate and intelligent. Read it. You'll be glad you did.
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83 of 89 people found the following review helpful By J. Ehrlich on April 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed it immensely and the writing was lyrical and lovely. I would recommend this book.
I lived in a commune from the age of 17 to almost 30, so I have to add that fact to my review of Arcadia. I will tell you my thoughts, and they are sort of jumbled together, so it's not a "good" or a "bad".... First, the NAMES for things were soooo reminiscent for me! We had a Home Place (Arcadia is the fictional Homeplace). Our Hatchery was Arcadia's "Pink Palace" for where the babies were born. The Monkey Crew (ours was the Construction Crew) ... "Inside" versus "Outside"... I could go on and on. Basically, we had our own language, and so this fact of Arcadia was astoundingly reminiscent and immensely enjoyable.

I believe it is human nature to rebel against what you know, so I had a hard time buying into Bit's unwavering love and loyalty for Arcadia. All the kids that had been born in my particular commune hated living there with a passion. They hated being different, and they couldn't wait to be old enough to bolt. Of course, now that they're older, they do appreciate the sense of family that existed, plus the fact that they have so many brothers and sisters throughout their lives.

I had a hard time with the author's timing of things. Knowing a thing or two about communes, I didn't buy that Arcadia was going strong while Ronald Reagan was in office (circa early '80's). That was after Jonestown. I believe the concept of the hippie commune was on the wane during that time. And the non-self-sustaining issue was also hard to swallow. For a real commune to exist for so long, they would have had to be way more organized than Arcadia was. The book describes Hannah as being pissed off or depressed a lot of the time because there was no money and no food.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By H. Timberline on July 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely LOVED the first half or two-thirds of the story, when Bit was growing up in the commune with his friends and learning about the world at large and HIS world in particular. I thought Groff nailed it - the commune was universally recognizable for what it was, yet never seemed trite or predictable. And within that world, the characters were drawn clearly and specifically. She moved the story along beautifully, so that I scarcely noticed the passage of time.

But the novel ground to a halt once Bit became an adult in the city. I came galloping eagerly out of the first part of the book, and hung with it pretty well during his time as a professor and his troubling non-relationship with Sylvie. But oh my god, the story hangs up dreadfully somewhere in there and becomes annoyingly lyrical as all action nearly stops and Bit becomes almost a non-entity. I am in the final chapters of the book and almost can't stand to read it anymore. I hate to abandon a book I've enjoyed as much as the earlier part of this one, but I'm not sure I can slog through the conclusion. Such a bummer.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By JoLynn on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
An involving, lyrical novel, Arcadia is the story of a commune of 'the free people' in upstate New York, told through the character of the first child born into the community, Bit Stone. We see Arcadia grow and then thrive, largely through the efforts of Bit's parents and a handful of other free people who truly embrace the principles on which Arcadia is founded. Bit introduces us to the many colorful characters of Arcadia, first through the eyes of a child, and later through the eyes of an unworldly but somewhat mature adolescent . Inevitably, the commune is destroyed by too many interlopers and the fall from grace of its charismatic leader, Handy. One by one the free people abandon or are banished from Arcadia. What will happen to them, and especially Bit, in the real world?

The novel is beautifully written. People and locations are portrayed keenly, vividly. Tenderness, love, beauty, pain. It's all here, and more.
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70 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Leda D. Schubert on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I received an advance copy of ARCADIA and have been waiting impatiently for the pub date so I can post a few thoughts (not that anyone's been waiting to hear from me). ARCADIA is a stunning novel. Look elsewhere for a plot summary--I can't do it justice.

The imagery Groff uses on page after page took my breath away--and by the last third or so, I was weeping. Here is the very stuff of life. Hope, dreams, love, how to live, lost hope, lost dreams, lost love, death. Bit, the protagonist, is beautifully crafted and will break your heart.

It's a gorgeous book. I can't stop thinking about it. I'm going to read it again. Writers know that the most particular and specific may also be the most universal. Nevertheless, sometimes a book comes along that you think has been written just for you. ARCADIA is like that. If you care about the world, buy a copy.
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